At a recent business meeting, I heard some words of wisdom that were oddly familiar yet said in a new way. The saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has been popular for many years. This was the first time I had heard anyone say “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you!”
Thinking back on most of my successes, this new-age version of an old saying slowly began to sink in.
I thought about the general manager who called needing help with a situation neither he nor his board of directors knew how to handle, and the safety officer who called needing ethics training to qualify his firm for a coveted industry certification.
But it wasn’t until I began writing this column that the power of the saying became clear.
The only way I can benefit from the people I know is by reaching out to them and asking for something; information, an introduction, a referral.
When people know me, I don’t have to do anything but answer the phone or reply to an e-mail. Which situation would you rather find yourself in — asking someone for something, or being asked?
Business development, advertising, marketing, and public relations are all about growing the number of people who know you and your business. Organizations such as Le Tip and Business Network International are built on this principle, and they’re very successful.
By belonging to one of these groups you get the benefit of having everyone else in your group selling for you. That’s their value proposition and recruiting pitch for new members. By bringing in referrals for others in each group, members get referrals from their virtual sales team.
How does it begin?
Have you ever gone to a store looking for something just because they could help point you in the right direction even if you knew they didn’t have what you wanted? In my book, that’s the ultimate power — the ability to attract by creating a sense of value even when the customer knows you don’t have the product or service they’re looking for.
Creating that sense of caring and a real desire to help is something people can feel. To get there, you and your staff cannot deliver as expected. You must go above and beyond. You have to exceed expectations. Only then will you make a lasting impression.
And it has to be the norm. I like to take the idea of a customer appreciation day and turn it into a customer appreciation month or year. Every day, every customer that you touch should walk away feeling as if someone at your company did just a little bit more than they had to, more than what was expected.
Make it a part of your culture. Create a standing agenda item for stories about customer service excellence in your regular company meetings. Ask every customer to rate his or her experience and explain that the reason you’re asking is so you can continuously improve your service. It might sound corny but it works.
Document the stories and offer awards and recognition for success. Publicize the stories on your website and in your newsletter. Celebrate the people who excel and watch everyone start to look for ways to be better themselves.
Extend your reach
There are several good common sense ways to increase the number of people who know you. Anticipate your customers’ needs and fill them without being asked. Become a resource for information on things related to your business even though you don’t offer them. Reward your customers just for being good customers.
Write articles for industry publications your customers read. Support causes and activities that are important to them. Attend their functions and don’t try to sell anything, just listen, observe, and meet as many people as you can. Then send hand-written thank-you notes.
Reward your staff for getting involved in community activities. Create opportunities for them to get out and get exposure — chambers of commerce are great for that. Volunteer to help feed the homeless on Thanksgiving; you’ll be surprised at the businesspeople you meet when you do.
Do good things and people will notice. It might not seem easy, and your efforts won’t usually pay immediate dividends, but they will create an awareness that can’t be measured in minutes or dollars.
You never know who will be crossing your path or the benefits they might be able to bring to you in the future. Give people a reason to remember you because it’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.